A Study of Caste and Gender Barriers for the Operation of Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) in Nepal

A Study of Caste and Gender Barriers for the Operation of Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) in Nepal

ABSTRACT

Micro-finance is used worldwide as an effective tool to reduce poverty through providing financial services to the disadvantaged groups such as low-income people and poor women who are traditionally excluded from such services. Nepal is one of the developing countries that is characterized by pervasive gender and caste bias. This study focused on gender and caste barriers that hinder the smooth implementation of microfinance institutions (MFIs) in Nepal. Using data from semi-structured interviews of ten employees of MFIs and other financial institutions, this study showed that staff of the Nepalese MFIs were aware of caste and gender discriminations, but they were inactive in overcoming these social and cultural barriers in their routine work. The findings indicated that the disproportionate male-female ratio among the staff was a major hindrance in the smooth operation of MFIs. Lack of female staff and the passiveness of female borrowers lead to the problem of communication between MFIs’ staff and their clients. Based on these findings, we suggest that gender sensitive awareness training should be included in MFIs’ training and advocacy programs for staff and clients in Nepal. Equal opportunities should be given to females and low caste people in the process of MFIs’ recruitment.

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